UN refugee chief urges greater solidarity with refugees in Italy

Some 275 refugees and migrants waiting to disembark from a tug in the Port of Pozzalo, Italy, after being rescued a few days earlier. Photo: UNHCR/F. Malavolta (file)

1 July 2017 – Italy needs more international support to assist the waves of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean, the United Nations refugee chief today urged.

“What is happening in front of our eyes in Italy is an unfolding tragedy,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

He stressed that “this cannot be an Italian problem alone. It is, first and foremost, a matter of international concern, requiring a joined-up, comprehensive regional approach.”

Some 12,600 migrants and refugees arrived on Italian shores in the course of last weekend, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said.

Mr. Grandi said that Europe in particular needs to be more involved through an urgent distribution system, increased external engagement and additional legal pathways of admission.

He also called for broader efforts by all concerned to address the root causes behind migratory pressures, create better protection for people in transit, and address smuggling and trafficking.

The stop priority remains saving lives, the UNHCR chief said, highlighting the critical search and rescue work being done by all those involved, including by NGOs, the Italian Coast Guard, and government authorities.

He warned, however, that “we are only at the beginning of the summer, and without swift collective action, we can only expect more tragedies at sea.”

An estimated 2,030 drowned in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year, according to UNHCR.

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